Marble Pound Cake

IMG_5018 Time flies! These past few days have been a whirlwind of work, running, yoga, eating, sleeping. Repeat. It’s finally stopped raining (for now) so I’ve been trying to take advantage of the clear skies on my runs. I’ve also been working on getting a Running page up on this blog! Nothing too exciting, just an easier way for me to organize my thoughts and separate running from food. But like I said before, the recipes will still keep coming so have no fear if you aren’t quite into the running stories!

Let’s talk marble pound cake.

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I’ve actually had this post saved in my drafts for a while now but that doesn’t make me less excited to share it with you! I’ve always loved how beautiful a swirl effect can be in baked goods. This cake takes full advantage of that plus satisfies both white and chocolate cake lovers. I know pound cake isn’t really cake cake, but it’s still cake-like and this recipe especially make a lovely, fluffy pound cake.  Another bonus is that you most likely already have all of the ingredients you need for this recipe (or you can make* certain ingredients) so this is the perfect last-minute recipe!

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*how to make:
– buttermilk: 1 tbsp lemon juice or 1 tbsp white vinegar in a 1-cup measuring cup, fill to top with milk
cake flour: 1 cup all-purpose flour, replace 2 tbsp of flour with 2 tbsp cornstarch and sift

Marble Pound Cake

Yields: 1 9×5 loaf cake

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
butter or spray for pan

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter or spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour.

Scoop 1/3 of the batter into another bowl and set aside. In a separate small bowl, mix the cocoa powder and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of boiling water until smooth. Add the cocoa mixture to the small bowl of cake batter; and stir it well.

To assemble the cake- start by creating a checkerboard pattern in the bottom of the pan by spooning dollops of each batter on opposite sides of the pan. For the second layer, alternate the pattern, spooning vanilla batter over the chocolate and vice versa. Finish with a final layer of batter- again alternating it from the pattern of the 2nd layer. Use a knife or skewer to swirl all the batters together. Make a couple figure 8s and run it back and forth so it is swirled and pretty.

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40-60 minutes (check at 40 minutes by inserting toothpick and if it does not come out clean, leave in longer as needed). Transfer pan to a rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cake from pan and cool completely on the rack. Cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

—SOURCE—
The Baker Chick, from Martha Stewart

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Raw Cashew Dreamcake (vegan & gluten-free)

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It’s been a while since my last post but hopefully I will be getting back on track to posting more regularly! In my last post I kind of explained that my lack of blogging has been due to a sudden lack of interest in food and baking and being in the kitchen caused by a busy marathon-training schedule, but I’m happy to say that I’ve recently started getting back into the kitchen so please bare with me while I start catching up with all of the food blog posts I’ve been missing out on these past couple of months!  I’m so excited to share this Raw Cashew Dreamcake with you, but first I’ll fill you in on what I’ve been up to since my last post!

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I’ve finally finished university and am currently on a job hunt in the real world that started off very enthusiastically and hopeful and has now after a few weeks become a tiny bit less enthusiastic and a bit more depressing. My fingers are still crossed that I will hear from somewhere soon! I feel like securing a real job is the first step in becoming a real adult in the real working world and I can’t wait!

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I’ve also gotten really into yoga! It’s funny what a huge difference a great instructor can make, in any aspect of life whether it be yoga, school, a senior co-worker who is training you, a friend teaching you how to bake a cake, etc.  I recently found an amazing yoga teacher, the kind who makes you want to actually put the effort in and improve, and after weeks of practicing…wait for it…I CAN DO A HEADSTAND!!!  It’s still a bit shaky and probably a little lopsided, but who cares, I’m balancing on my head (and hands or forearms) and it makes me feel rad as heck and as proud as a peacock.

I also completed my second marathon ever!! I ran it 15 minutes faster than my first marathon back in May, and even though I’m still a back-of-the-pack kind of runner, I’m ecstatic about my time and am crazy enough to want to do it again. I think I’m more addicted to beating my time than actually running 42.2km/26 miles. I’m debating adding a “Running” page to this blog to document my running adventures and provide tips I’ve learned along the way because I do love reading other running blogs so we will see if that happens.

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When I first starting seriously running, I was over the moon with the number of calories I would burn on a long run and felt like it totally justified the chips, french fries, ice cream and other junk that I loved consuming. Something changed when I started the 18-week training for my second marathon though. Even though I was burning a lot of calories, I still felt so gross after a poutine or a burger. I started to think more in terms of whether or not the poutine was worth the 27km run I did earlier in the week and the answer was always no!  I started to change my diet to incorporate foods like mass amounts of fresh vegetables that made me feel great inside and starting looking towards vegetarian and vegan recipes for inspiration on eating clean.

Cheesecake has always been a weakness for me, the more decadent the better (like this chocolate peanut butter torte or this caramel apple cheesecake pie). Unfortunately for me and most likely for you, cheesecake isn’t the most waist-friendly dessert to indulge in so when I saw this recipe for a Raw Cashew Dreamcake on My New Roots a while back, I immediately bookmarked it.  Guys, now that I’ve finally made it I can honestly say it is the best thing ever!!  This cake is essentially a raw AND gluten-free AND vegan AND healthy cheesecake alternative to the real thing. It’s ridiculously easy to make seeing as you only need a really good food processor or blender and you don’t need an oven! This version is a raspberry&vanilla flavour combo, but you can easily customize and flavour the layers to your liking.  Now I have to admit, nothing that isn’t cheesecake will actually taste like real cheesecake, but the cashews in this dreamcake are like magic and work to create a smooth and rich filling that is just so good anyways. Plus you won’t feel so guilty after a slice or two! 😉

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Raw Cashew Dreamcake

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
1/2 cup raw almonds (pecan or walnuts will also work)
1/2 cup soft Medjool dates
¼ tsp. sea salt

For the Filling:
1 ½ cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 5 hours, overnight is best
juice of 1-2 lemons
the seeds of 1 whole vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. alcohol-free vanilla extract)
1/3 cup raw coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup raw honey or agave nectar
1 cup raspberries (thaw completely if using frozen)

Directions:
Place nuts and dates in a food processor with sea salt and pulse to chop until they are to your desired fineness (process a finer crust longer than a chunky one). Test the crust by spooning out a small amount of mixture and rolling it in your hands. If the ingredients hold together, your crust is perfect. If they do not hold together, add more dates (one at a time) and process.

Scoop out the crust mixture into a 7” spring-form pan (if you don’t have a spring-form pan, use a pie plate or cake pan lined with saran wrap), and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout.  If using saran wrap, try to smooth it out as much as possible to avoid a lot of creases in the final cake.

Rinse food processor well.

Warm coconut oil and honey in a small saucepan on low heat until liquid and whisk to combine or place in a small bowl and microwave in 10-20 second increments, whisking in between until liquid.

In the most powerful food processor / blender you own (you decide which one has the most torque) place all filling ingredients* (except raspberries) and blend on high until very smooth (this make take a couple minutes so be patient). If you have a Vita-Mix, absolutely use it.  *start with the juice of 1 lemon, and add more juice to taste if you like. I only used 1 lemon.

Pour about 2/3 (just eyeball it, you can’t make a mistake!) of the mixture out onto the crust and smooth with a spatula. Add the raspberries to the remaining filling and blend on high until smooth. Pour onto the first layer of filling and again smooth with a spatula. Place in freezer until solid.

To serve, remove from freezer 30 minutes prior to eating. Run a smooth, sharp knife under hot water and cut into slices. Serve on its own, or with fresh fruit. Store leftovers in the freezer (what leftovers?).

—SOURCE—
slightly adapted from My New Roots

Peach and Blueberry Pie

IMG_5392Hi! Remember me?

Yea, I know I’ve been away for a while…truth is I almost feel like a stranger to my own blog. It’s crazy how fast time flies. The reason I haven’t posted in so long is because in the midst of training for my first marathon and balancing school work and a social life at the same time, I lost my passion for baking. I stopped following all of my favourite food blogs, I stopped daydreaming about butter and flour and I pretty much lost interest in all things food-related. Scary, right?! My camera and stand mixer sat there untouched for a few months collecting dust while I found myself replacing my love for baking with a new-found love for running and working out. Those long runs gave me such an endorphin rush that I no longer needed baking to make me feel happy.

IMG_5400A lot has happened in the past couple of months. I ran my first half-marathon, I ran my first full marathon shortly after which I promised myself I would never run again, I went to Hawaii with my sister where I allowed myself to be briefly romanced by another surfer boy with a motorcycle (nothing quite like the Costa Rica romance, but I don’t think anything can really compare to that), I decided I missed running enough to incorporate short 5k runs into my exercise schedule, I lost my mind and signed up for another marathon (currently on week 7 of training), I baked this peach and blueberry pie and pronounced it the pie of the summer, I proceeded to eat the entire pie all by myself in under a week, and I decided this pie was too good to not share with you, thus bringing this blog out of hibernation. Life has been good.

IMG_5396I first saw this recipe 2 summers ago on Joy the Baker and immediately bookmarked it. The only problem was that summer (and the following summer) I was working at an overnight camp where I had no kitchen access at all. So this recipe stayed hidden away until finally this summer I saw the most beautiful, sweet-smelling peaches ever and instantly knew what I had to do with them. It might seem weird to bake a pie in the summer when it’s so hot out but really this is the perfect pie to celebrate the fresh flavours of summer. I wasn’t kidding when I said I ate the whole thing on my own and while I don’t recommend that so much during bikini season, I have absolutely no regrets. The pie dough comes together easily and makes for the richest, butteriest crust while the filling is just bursting with flavour and colour. So make the most of peach season and make this pie asap!

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Peach and Blueberry Pie

Yields: one 9-inch pie

Ingredients:
For the Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
5 tbsp plus 2 tsp ice cold water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

For the Filling:
About 3 pounds ripe peaches (I used about 6 peaches)
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 to 2/3 cups granulated sugar (depending on the sweetness of your peaches)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
scant 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for topping crust before baking

Directions:
To make the crust, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.  Add cold, cubed butter and, using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture.  Quickly break the butter down into the flour mixture, some butter pieces will be the size of oat flakes, some will be the size of peas. Stir together the ice cold water and vinegar.   Create a well in the butter and flour mixture and pour in the water and vinegar mixture.  Use a fork to bring to dough together.  Try to moisten all of the flour bits.  On a lightly floured work surface, dump out the dough mixture.  It will be moist and shaggy.  That’s perfect.  Divide the dough in two and gently knead into two disks.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the filling, wash and slice peaches.  In a medium bowl, combine peach slices and blueberries.  In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, spices, flour, and cornstarch.  Pour the sugar mixture over the fruit, and gently toss together with a wooden spoon.  Stir in the lemon juice.  Place bowl of fruit in the fridge to rest while you roll the crust out.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place a rack in the center of the oven, and place a baking sheet on the lower rack, just below where you’re going to place the pie.  This will catch any pie drippings without making a mess of your oven.

Remove one of the pie dough disks from the fridge.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into about a 13-inch round.  Roll the dough a few strokes, then use your fingers to move the emerging circle around the floured surface.  This ensures that the dough isn’t sticking to the work surface.  The circle won’t be perfect, that’s ok.  Try not to get any tears in the rolled out dough, but if you do, they can be patched together with extra dough.    When you roll the dough and you can see it start springing back, that means that the butter is warming and the crust shouldn’t be rolled out anymore.  Gently lift the 13-inch round from the floured surface and center in the 9-inch baking dish.  Place in the fridge while you roll out the top crust.

Roll out the top crust just as you did the bottom crust, moving the dough across the floured surface every once in a while, and creating a roughly 13-inch circle.  Remove the bottom crust and fruit filling from the fridge.  Gently pour the fruit filling into the pie dish.  Carefully remove the top crust from the work surface and drape over the fruit in the pie dish.  With a small knife, trim the crust, leaving about 3/4-inch overhang.  With your fingers press the top and bottom crusts together and fold under.  Use a fork or your fingers to crimp the edges of the dough.  Cut five small slits in the top of the crust so the juices and steam can vent.  Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.

Place pie in the oven and bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 375 and bake for 45 to 55 more minutes.  Remove from the oven when crust is browned and golden, and the juices are bubbling.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 2 hours before serving.  Place covered in the fridge to store.  Pie lasts up to 3 or 4 days.

—SOURCE—
Joy the Baker

Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish Braid

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I feel that with something as good as this blueberry cream cheese danish braid, I should keep the talking to a minimum so you can hurry up and get to the recipe asap. I’m still going to talk about how seriously amazing this danish braid is but I won’t be offended at all if you skip right to the end of this post 😛

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It all started when I had a craving for pastry. I’ve made croissants and chocolate croissants before so just thinking about those made me really want something perfectly flaky and buttery crisp. I wanted to play around with different flavours and fillings though, so it wasn’t long before I thought of this spiced apple cream cheese danish braid and decided that I wanted to make a blueberry version.

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Making pastry dough can be a little daunting if you have never tried it before, but it really isn’t hard at all! The only thing to keep in mind is there is a lot of waiting time in between when your dough is chilling in the fridge. I planned this danish braid ahead of time so that I could make the dough and the fillings the night before, and so all I had to do the next morning was roll out the dough, assemble and bake!

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Knowing that I had this beauty of a treat to look forward to was the only thing that kept me running home after a long 27km run…but let’s not go there, my hip hasn’t quite recovered from that just yet!  My longer runs usually leave me pretty drained once I’ve gotten back home, but I definitely had enough energy to put this braid together and pop it in the oven. And ohmygoodness. Fresh from the oven, each slice is made up of delicate layers upon layers of buttery goodness that envelopes a sweet blueberry pie-like filling perfectly complemented by a cream cheese filling with a lemon tang. All of that coated in a light and sweet sugar glaze.

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The best part is that even if you have leftovers, this still tastes so good the next day and the day after. I kept mine chilled in the fridge and even enjoyed it chilled, but it also tastes just as good after a quick zap in the microwave or if you have more time, after a few minutes in the oven.

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This would be the perfect treat to serve for a breakfast where you really want to impress! So go out there and knock some socks off! Actually, if it’s breakfast at home, then your household might not be wearing socks. Unless they are one of those weird people that wears socks when they sleep. I’m shuddering thinking about it.

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Also, the braiding of this danish might make it a little tricky to cut perfectly straight pieces. But that’s totally okay, because if you’re quick enough you can just snag a bigger piece. 😉

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Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish Braid

Ingredients:

For the Danish dough:
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1½ tsp. instant yeast*
¼ cup sugar
¾ tsp. salt
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the butter square:
12 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

For the cream cheese filling:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 tbsp. sugar

For the blueberry filling:
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water

For the glaze:
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 tsp. milk, plus more as needed

For the drizzle (optional):
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp. milk, plus more as needed

*Instant yeast = rapid rise yeast = bread machine yeast

Directions:
To make the dough, combine 1¼ cups of the flour in a bowl with the yeast, sugar, and salt.  Place the milk and egg in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and knead until a smooth ball of dough forms, about 7-8 minutes.  (The dough should be sticky but if more dough sticks to the bowl than the dough hook, add the remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.)  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the butter square, toss together the butter pieces and flour on a clean work surface.  Smear the butter back and forth using a bench scraper against the work surface until they have combined into a smooth homogenous mixture.  Wrap the butter mixture in plastic wrap and use the edges of the plastic to form it into a 5-inch square.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour.  Lay the chilled dough on the work surface and roll into a 9-inch square.  Place the butter square diagonally on top the dough and remove the plastic wrap.  Fold the corners of dough over the butter so that they meet in the middle of the butter square.  Pinch the ends of the dough together to seal.  Using a rolling pin , tap the dough from the center outward until the butter begins to soften and become malleable.  Gently roll the dough into an 11-inch square, re-flouring the work surface as necessary to prevent sticking.  Fold the outside edges of the dough in toward the center in thirds, one overlapping the other, like a business letter.  Repeat this process folding the other direction to make a square.  (This completes two turns.)  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.  Roll the dough into an 11-inch square once more and repeat the two turns as before (business letter, then square).  Wrap in plastic wrap again and chill once more for at least 4 hours.  (At this point the dough can be refrigerated overnight).

To make the cream cheese filling, combine the cream cheese, lemon zest and sugar in a small bowl.  Mix well until smooth and blended.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the blueberry filling, combine the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Mash about half of the blueberries as the mixture gets heated, and bring it a boil. Once the mixture is bubbling, lower the heat to medium and add the cornstarch mixture, stirring until it thickens. Remove from heat and let it cool before using.

When you are ready to shape and bake the danish, preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  On a large, very well floured sheet of parchment paper roll the chilled dough into a 14-inch square.  Spread the cream cheese filling evenly down the middle third of the dough.  Lay the blueberry filling over the top of the cream cheese mixture (you may not end up using all of the filling*).  Using a pizza cutter or a paring knife, cut the outer thirds of dough into ¾-inch strips so that the cuts are diagonal to the filling.  Alternating sides, fold the strips of dough over the filling, crisscrossing the strips over the center, until the entire Danish is braided.  Transfer the braid, still on the parchment, to a baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and rise at room temperature until slightly puffy (it will not double), about 30 minutes.

Bake until the braid is golden brown, 22-26 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.  To make the glaze, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time as needed to thin the glaze.  Transfer to a cooking rack and brush with the glaze while still hot.  Cool to room temperature.  To make the drizzle, combine the confectioners’ sugar and milk in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time as needed to make it a drizzle-able consistency.  Drizzle over the finished braid.  Slice crosswise and serve.

*leftover blueberry filling is excellent served over yoghurt, pancakes or waffles, ice cream, in smoothies, the options are endless!

—SOURCE—
based off of this Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Danish Braid recipe

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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I’ve decided that a week (and a half) is a perfectly acceptable length of time to mope around, contemplate buying a plane ticket and running way, and consume an embarassing number of microwavable chocolate mug cakes in order to get over the feeling of having a giant hole in my heart. But now I’m back to reality and back to normal! Thank you so much for your love on my last post. Your sweet comments meant the world to me and I adore you. Which is why I want to share with you this carrot cake with cream cheese frosting!

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I really love carrot cake, especially with cream cheese frosting. It’s one of my favourite flavour combinations, yet for some reason up until now I had never baked one myself! To be honest I think I was a little scared to try out a recipe and be disappointed. More often than not, the carrot cakes I’ve tasted have either been too dry, too dense or lacking in flavour. I was so happy with the way this cake turned out though. The carrot cake itself is plain and simple, yet so moist and fluffy. I love how the grated carrots add a lovely pop of orange colour as well. The cream cheese frosting is perfection and if you’re like me and bake your cake in a bundt pan then you will have leftover frosting to snack on 🙂

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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups grated carrots

For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound (16 oz) powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract


Directions
:
Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix together the sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl. In another bowl sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to first mixture and combine. Then add carrots and stir in gently. Pour into a greased and floured pan (bundt, sheet cake, 9 x 13 pyrex) and bake at 350F until cooked through, 25 minutes (sheet cake) to 50 minutes (Bundt pan), depending on the pan you use.  Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, in a large bowl, cream togetherbutter and cream cheese. Add sugar and vanilla and blend together very well until creamy. Spread on cooled carrot cake. Enjoy!
—SOURCE—
slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Nutella Stuffed Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I know, I can be pretty mean sometimes. Fresh off of your Valentine’s sugar overload, and I’m sharing chocolate chip cookies with you that not only have brown butter in them but are also stuffed with Nutella. For real?! I don’t think I can ever go back to a plain chocolate chip cookie ever again. Browning the butter (which in case you didn’t know is a favourite pastime of mine) really takes the cookie dough to another level by adding an intoxicatingly nutty scent and flavour that is perfectly complemented by a dollop of Nutella. I can’t get over how much awesomeness is packed into each cookie.

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Piping out the Nutella in advance and freezing it makes it much easier to put these cookies together. I will warn you though that frozen Nutella doesn’t stay frozen for long, so work quickly and keep half of the Nutella dollops in the freezer until you need them. Enjoy!

Nutella Stuffed Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields: about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
Chocolate hazelnut spread (such as Nutella), about ½ cup
1 cup (16 tbsp.) unsalted butter
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. coarse sea salt, plus more sprinkling
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. greek yogurt or sour cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:
Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper.  Place chocolate hazelnut spread in a plastic bag toward one corner of the bag.  Twist so that it does not squeeze out of the top.  Snip one corner off the end of the bag.  Pipe small dollops of the spread onto the wax paper, about 1-1½ teaspoons each.  You will need about 2 dozen.  Transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and let sit until firm, about 2 hours.

Place the butter in a medium to large skillet over medium heat.  Melt the butter completely.  Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the butter foams, bubbles slightly, and begins to brown.  Continue whisking until the butter is evenly browned, being careful not to burn.  Remove from the heat and let cool.

Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugars and the brown butter.  Mix on medium speed until well blended and smooth.  Blend in the egg and egg yolk, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla and greek yogurt.  With the mixer on low speed, blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Chill the dough briefly, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Use a medium dough scoop (about 2 tablespoons) to scoop a portion of cookie dough.  Press an indentation into the center of the dough ball to create a bowl shape.  Place a dollop of the frozen Nutella in the indentation and pinch together the edges of the cookie dough over the top to completely seal it in the center.

Place the shaped cookies on the prepared baking sheets, 2-3 inches apart.  Bake until the cookies are golden brown and set, rotating the pans halfway through, about 14 minutes total. Let sit a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Repeat with the remaining dough as needed (if you can resist eating it.)  Be sure to replace the remaining Nutella dollops in the freezer while waiting for cookies to bake.  It softens fairly quickly otherwise.

—SOURCE—
Annie’s Eats, from Ambitious Kitchen

Cheesecake Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

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Despite the fact that I easily have hundreds of recipes bookmarked for future reference, sometimes I come across something that instantly catches my eye and makes me feel the strongest urge to run to the kitchen and start measuring and mixing ingredients together. I wouldn’t say that this happens regularly mainly because I like to think that I am able to exercise some sort of restraint, but reading about these cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie bars honestly made me dizzy with excitement. I mean seriously? Whoever thought up this combo is a genius in my eyes. These bars manage to combine chocolate chip cookies and cheesecake, two of my very favourite things in the world, into one dessert. These bars are great chilled, at room temperature, and even after a quick zap in the microwave for melty chocolatey goodness. You really do get the best of both worlds with these bars 🙂

Cheesecake Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Yields: a 9×13″ pan, about 20 bars

Ingredients:
For the Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer:
3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

For the Cheesecake Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9X13-inch pan with aluminum foil and lightly coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

For the cookie layer whisk the melted butter and sugars in a large bowl until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda, folding into the dough with a rubber spatula; do not overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips until combined. Press half of the dough onto the bottom of the prepared pan. It will be a thin layer, so use lightly moistened hands to press the dough into a thin even layer, filling in any holes with a bit of cookie dough from the bowl.

For the cheesecake filling, mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar together with an electric mixer on medium-high until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined. Spread the cheesecake filling over the layer of cookie dough in the pan.

Using the remaining cookie dough, flatten tablespoon sized amounts of cookie dough in your hands into flat disc shapes, about 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Place these discs over the top of the cheesecake layer, pressing very lightly to adhere them to the cheesecake layer. It’s ok if there are small spaces; the entire top doesn’t need to be completely covered just make sure it is mostly covered with cookie dough.

Bake the bars for 35-40 minutes until very lightly browned on the edges. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate until chilled, 1-2 hours. Cut into squares and serve. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

—SOURCE—
slightly adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Sweethearts Conversation Heart Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

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When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of life being like a box of chocolates, your boyfriend getting in trouble for not booking that restaurant reservation sooner, a dozen red roses, meaningless store-bought cards, and those chalky sweetheart candies that come in pastel colours and are have cheeky quotes stamped onto each one.

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I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of conversation heart candies, I’ve always associated the flavour and texture to that of a TUMS antacid tablet so not really something I would enjoy eating mass quantities of. However I have always loved reading each individual one and chuckling at the bolder statements.  Enter these sugar cookies! They resemble the traditional sweethearts but taste so much better.

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I actually had a lot of fun making these and picking out what I wanted to write on each one. I’m planning on bringing these in to the hospital tomorrow for my department so I kept my statements on the safe side but you can be as bold or creative as you like. Tell your Valentine how you really feel! 😉

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The recipe for the sugar cookies and royal icing, along with a detailed royal icing tutorial can be found here or here if you want a less detailed royal icing tutorial! Have fun and get creative!

Cheesecake Brownie Bites

IMG_4559So I was supposed to share a much healthier recipe with you today, but I literally just baked these cheesecake brownie bites and couldn’t wait a second longer to share these with you. I’ve always loved cream cheese in pretty much any shape or form, and whenever a dessert incorporates cream cheese into the batter or filling or frosting I am a very happy girl. So you can imagine just how excited I was when I stumbled across this recipe! These little brownie bites are kind of like those 2-bite brownies, except they have ingredients you can actually pronounce, are made with love, and have a sweetened cheesecake-like filling inside! Do you really need any more convincing to make these?  My mom bought me a mini muffin tin over the summer so I was very happy to put it to good use with this recipe. The original recipe says you will make about 30 cheesecake brownie bites, but I ended up making 48 in total although I ran out of the cheesecake filling so about 6 of them were just plain brownie bites, but no complaints there 🙂

Cheesecake Brownie Bites

Yields: about 44-48 brownie bites

Ingredients:
For the brownie batter:
4 large eggs
1¼ cups baking cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder, mixed with 2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2¼ cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1½ cups all-purpose flour

For the cheesecake filling:
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 large egg yolk

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, baking cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso mixed with water, and vanilla until well combined. Just a warning that this batter will be very thick. I switched from using a whisk to a firm rubber spatula.

Stir in the sugar and melted butter until well combined, then stir in the flour. Set brownie batter aside.

In a separate bowl, prepare the cheesecake filling by stirring together the cream cheese, sugar and egg yolk until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag or plastic bag.

Grease a non-stick mini-muffin pan with cooking spray or butter and then spoon a tablespoon of brownie batter into the greased cups. Pipe a generous amount of cheesecake filling atop the brownie batter, and then top off each cup with an additional teaspoon of brownie batter.

Bake for about 12-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let the brownie bites cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then transfer them to a cooling rack to continue cooling, or enjoy warm. If the brownie bites aren’t easily releasing from the pan, use a sharp knife to cut around the edges to release them.

—SOURCE—
Just a Taste, brownie batter recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.

Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Brown Butter Icing

IMG_0245I was cleaning out all of my old USBs and deleting a lot of files when I found pictures of this pumpkin pecan cake with brown butter icing hidden away in a file. I realize that this is more of a cake I should be sharing with you in the fall or  early winter (just like these pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting!) but I couldn’t handle the thought of waiting 8 or 9 months just to share this with you. So here it is in all its glory! This layered cake has a nice, warm pumpkin pecan flavour that is jazzed up with a bit of orange zest. The cake layers are sandwiched with candied pecans and brown butter icing (the icing alone is enough reason to make this cake) and the whole thing is covered with more icing and pecans!  You don’t have to coat the sides of the cake with candied pecans like I did, but I had enough pecans to do so and I didn’t like the way the icing looked plain anyways. This cake was a hit and even if you don’t have plans to bake it now, it’s definitely a cake to bookmark for next fall!
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Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Brown Butter Icing

Ingredients:

For the Cake:
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1¼ cups packed, light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups unbleached cake and pastry flour
½ cup ground toasted pecans
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp each ground ginger, cinnamon and allspice
1 tsp orange zest
½ cup buttermilk

For the Icing:
½ cup unsalted butter
8 oz cream cheese, softened
¼ cup brown sugar
1¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 cups (500 mL) chopped candied pecans** (plus more for garnish)


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Grease sides of two 9-inch (1.5-L) round metal cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in pumpkin and vanilla until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk fl our, ground pecans, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and orange zest. Stir into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, making 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of wet. Scrape into pans; smooth. Bake in the centre of oven until a cake tester comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pans on rack for 10 minutes. Turn out onto racks; peel off paper. Invert; let cool.

For icing, in a large heavy skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns a golden brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a bowl and let stand until the little bits sink to the bottom, about 5 minutes. Transfer to freezer and chill until firm, about 15 minutes. Scrape the top of the butter from the bits at the bottom; discard bits.

Transfer brown butter to bowl with the cream cheese and brown sugar. With an electric mixer beat until the brown sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until incorporated and fluff y, 1 to 2 minutes.

To assemble the cake, brush any crumbs from cake layers. Cut each in half horizontally. Place 1 layer, cut-side up on cake plate. Spread with about ¾ cup (175 mL) of the icing. Sprinkle evenly with ½ cup (125 mL) of the candied pecans. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining layer, cut-side down. Spread entire cake with a scant cup of the icing to mask. Refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes. Spread cake with remaining icing and decorate with remaining pecans.

** to make candied pecans:
Yields: 2 cups of candied pecans

Ingredients:
1 large egg white
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups raw pecan halves

Directions:
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg white until the whites have foamed into small white bubbles. Add sugar, spices, and salt.  Whisk until thick and opaque. Add pecans and toss to coat. Once thoroughly coated, spoon pecans onto prepared baking sheet. Leave any extra coating in the bowl.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until nuts are fragrant and toasted golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

—SOURCE—
cake from Food&Drink magazine, candied pecans slightly adapted from Joy the Baker

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